The astrological transit of a Saturn return happens for everyone in one’s late 20s and again in one’s late 50s, when Saturn returns to orbit the sign and degree it was in at one’s birth. A Saturn return often gets a bad rap, as Saturn is associated with structure, hard work and maturity. But something that is hard is not necessarily something bad.
Astrology does not teach us that any planet causes us to do things. Astrology is a language by which we can read and tell a meaningful story of the interplay between earthlings and the celestial bodies.
I am at the tail end of my second Saturn return, as Saturn is making a last pass over the 21st degree of Sagittarius before it will, later this year, move on into the sign, or season, of Capricorn.
I have loved my second Saturn return, as I loved my first, though I didn’t know what it was in my late 20s.
During my first Saturn return, I started graduate school in Sociology at UC Berkeley, having never taken a sociology class before. I was writing my first book about the Christian Right, titled Spiritual Warfare, which I now know was an embodiment of my lunar south node in Aries in the 9th house and Mars in Aries in the 8th house.
I fell in love with Sociology and was devouring academic books. My mind was like a sharpened blade. I become something I had not been before: a public intellectual.
When Saturn entered Sagittarius again in 2014, that same day was when I signed up for my first astrology class, not immediately recognizing the synchronicity of the timing. This whole period of Saturn’s travel through Sagittarius has coincided with my becoming a student again, now with astrology. For someone with her natal Moon closely positioned with Saturn in Sagittarius, the quest for what’s True never ends.
I was taken by surprise at the first Saturn return when I became a sociologist and an author. I am taken by surprise now that I am becoming an astrologer.
I have been even more surprised as with this Saturn return, my spiritual path made an unexpected shift.
I’ve spent much of my life as an ardent meditator, first in a yogic vein, then with Sufism and then starting in the late 1990s with the study and practice of Buddhism. For about ten years, I was focused on retreat practice at a local Buddhist center. I stopped going in 2010 in part because the experiences I was having did not fit into the little box of how meditation is taught there.
I considered that what was happening then was that my spiritual practice had become so internalized that I could not relate to any teacher or group. And I was fine with that.
Then came my cancer diagnosis in 2011, and as part of my healing, I started taking a weekly acupuncture treatment which I continue to do. I use the hour lying in a reclining chair to do a healing meditation, using affirmations and states I had experienced during all the years of retreats. I meditate with “bare attention” and also with absorption in color and sound.
This is Saturn in Sagittarius in practice. I have the Sagittarian’s eternal faith in Saturnian structures of just showing up, over and over, for meditation with no regard for results. In Buddhist teaching, this is called “right effort.” Just do the work, with optimism but no expectations.
Around the time of Saturn’s ingress into Sagittarius in December of 2014, I was just meditating one afternoon in the acupuncture chair, when a sense of ordinary reality seemed to fall away, and I was greeted in the inner realms by a helping spirit in non-human form. I was startled. I did not know why this was happening, and I decided to not dwell on it.
But the inner visitations continued, and I did something unusual for me: I did not go to books or to the internet to do research. I just let the phenomenon continue. I eventually acknowledged to myself that I really did know what was happening: I was having spontaneous shamanic journeys. The helping spirits were coming to me as new guides from the hidden realms. This was outside of my earlier spiritual training. It came unbidden.
About a year ago, I sought guidance from a local woman who is a priestess of ancient women’s mystery schools, and I began having mentoring sessions with her. We first did a ritual in which I relinquished my ties to the hierarchical spiritual lineages I had been linked to. I did this with gratitude for what I had learned and in order to open up a new field.
I was reluctant to pick up on yet another buzz word, which the word “shamanism” has become, but I knew that what has happened is that during this blessed Saturn return, my spiritual practice has shifted to something quite new, for me, and something older than old.
Shamanism is the oldest form of mysticism, possibly dating back 100,000 years. It is practiced cross-culturally among tribes and societies who until fairly recently have not been in contact. Shamanism is called the path of direct revelation. It is a path with no gurus and no rules. That suits me now. One’s teacher may be any element of nature – a barnyard owl, an ocean wave, a feather in the wind – all hinting at aspects of one’s own inner being.
Of course, there are classes to take, and local groups to join with for rituals, but one is continually thrown back to one’s own wisdom to make sense of anything that occurs along the way.
Saturn in its traverse through the sign of Sagittarius –and having now made a couple of passes over my natal Saturn and Moon in Sagittarius – tells of the opening of this new field. Saturn does not come bearing freebies. Saturn is a God(dess) of structure who requires hard work. Saturn in Sagittarius says: face the challenge of what’s true and even most difficult about yourself, and have faith that the message you receive is that even the most difficult thing is perfect and good.
To quote from one of my favorite of the contemporary teachers of shamanism, the longest journey one will ever take is from the head to the heart.